An incredible true story about William Baekeland, a swindler who fooled international travelers


Before we start this text, I, Dominique Laurent, would like : 1) to make a legal disclaimer. I in no way am a court, nor do I have legal knowledge - it is up to the experts to decide which of the elements detailed below are significant and relevant, and to what extent there are to be legal consequences, 2) to ascertain my copyright to the text below, as well as my personal photos. The use of either text or personal photos is only permitted following my written agreement.


Have you ever heard of … :


Have you ever seen these con movies ? : 'Catch Me if you Can' where Leonardo di Caprio pretended to be a pilot for years …, or ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ (remake of the French 1960 movie ‘Plein Soleil’) where Matt Damon (Alain Delon in ‘Plein Soleil’) is a poor young man from NYC who impersonates the son of a wealthy shipbuilder, living lavishly on money from this rich heir obtained by forgery …, or the very recent excellent French movie ‘Au revoir là-haut’ (‘Bye bye, up here’), where 2 swindlers sell WWI death memorials on plans and disappear with the money…, or ‘Je Compte sur vous’ (2015), a French biography based on the life of conman Gilbert Chikli who invented the "CEO scam" and was able to persuade bank and company officers to transfer money by simply ringing them and impersonating their CEO)…., or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) …., or ‘Snatch’ (2000) …, or the 3 French movies ‘La Vérité si je mens’ (’the ‘Truth if I lie’) (1997, 2000, 2011)…. I have seen them all, without knowing that sometimes reality surpasses fiction !










Have you ever heard about these famous conmen (and conwomen !) ? : Christophe Rocancourt, a French imposter and confidence man who - he was between 20 and 30 yrs old -, in the 90’s, scammed affluent people (Mickey Rourke was one of them) as well as modest people (such as a masseuse in California) by masquerading in turn as a French nobleman, as the heir to the Rockefeller, or family member of a celebrity …, Gilbert Chikli, who targeted companies with the ‘me president’ scam …., Victor Lustig, who, after WWI, succeeded to ‘sell’ the Eiffel Tower to unaware and naive scrap dealers …, Thérèse Humbert, who, in the 19th century, made people believe she had got a large heritage and got money from loans supposed to be guaranteed by her alleged heritage (it took 20 yrs to unveil the scam : when the police opened the safe where the documents of the heritage were allegedly kept, police discovered only a brick and a penny !!)…, the infamous Charles Ponzi and his ‘financial pyramid’… and of course Bernard Madoff …




 Christophe Rocancourt



   Charles Ponzi



   Bernard Madoff




Have you ever heard about Leo Hendrik Baekeland ? This American chemist was dubbed "The Father of the Plastics Industry" and was the inventor of the bakelite at the turn of the 20th century. Leo Hendrik Baekeland appeared on Time Magazine’s list as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20st century and, as such, his invention made his family tremendously rich. But that is not all : one of his granddaughters (Barbara) became famous for her gay son, Antony, with whom she had an incestuous relationship and who murdered her. After spending 8 years in jail, Antony was released in 1980 ; his grandmother agreed to take him but just a few days afterwards he stabbed her. Sent to Rikers Island, not long afterwards, he committed suicide .... This extraordinary ‘story in the story’ was made into a movie (Savage Grace, 2007).



                                                                                                              Leo Baekeland











Have you ever heard about Jesse Gordon ? Of course not, I suppose, happily for you ; but you will understand why by reading a lot about him here ! Well, I am pretty sure Jesse got to know who Leo Baekeland was by watching ‘Savage Grace’ movie in 2007. Jesse Gordon was born in March 1993 in a working class family in a suburb of Birmingham, UK. He has 2 sisters. He graduated in 2014 in International Affairs at Aberystwyth University, Wales, not Oxford or Cambridge of course but quite a well-ranked university. Not bad for a lad coming from a very ordinary family. He is gay. I do not care but some people do not accept that, especially his mother who threw him out because of his orientation.                                                      


    Jesse Gordon




And now, have you ever heard about me, Dominique Laurent ? Of course, probably not, though you would be happier to meet me than the guy I just talked about ! I am an ‘extreme traveler’ ; the more remote the places I visit, the happier I am. I did my first trek in a then very remote and difficult place to reach : Zanskar in the Himalayas. Like Sylvain Tesson, I love the Polar regions (I have been both to the South and North Poles, in Antarctica Peninsula, in the Weddell Sea, in the Ross Sea, thru the Northwest passage, to many Sub-Antarctic Islands like Peter 1st, to Wrangel Island, to Siberia many times such as the Yamal Peninsula meeting the Nenets or Yakoutia meeting the Evenks, to Svalbard, to Franz Josef Land …). Like the Krafts, I love seeing volcanoes (I have climbed more than 70 of them). I love trekking : I have been to all base camps of the Nepalese eightthousanders plus K2, Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat in Pakistan) and did many treks in the Andes. I love meeting peoples whose traditions are still vivid : the Danis & the Korowaï in Papua, the Tsaatan in Mongolia, the Himbas, the North Vietnam minorities, and many many more (see my internet site at-home-everywhere.com) … I also love to attend traditional festivals. I have been to more than 193 independent countries ; I rank nr 1 in France on MTP (mosttraveledpeople.com) and nr 2 on Nomadmania.com.



I, Dominique Laurent, at South Pole, at Tilicho Lake (Nepal) & on Equator (Uganda)





Well at this point, you might wonder what connects what you have already read …



Here is now my absolutely true story about the scam designed by a certain William Baekeland (alias Jesse Gordon, yes the young lad I introduced above).




It all started on March 24th 2015 when I boarded, along with some 70 passengers, a ship named Ortelius for a 30 days expedition in Sub-Antarctic and South Atlantic Ocean, discovering on the way the South Shetland Islands, the South Orkney Islands, the South Sandwich Islands, Bouvet Island, Gough Island, the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, St Helena and Ascension Island.


Of course on this ship, there was plenty of time available to talk to each other and make new acquaintances. One passenger drew the light on him : it was a certain William Baekeland, whom I met for the first time. He was a very young guy, about 22 yrs old, by far the youngest passenger on the ship, with perfectly eloquent, upper-crust accent, very sympathetic, showing an astonishing knowledge of the remote places in the world where every ‘extreme’ traveler like me dreams of going. We were all surprised to learn that, even at such a young age, he (allegedly) had been to more than 150 countries in the world and that he aimed at completing as soon as possible the 193 independent countries on the UN list, becoming the youngest person ever to have done that.

No doubt for us he could achieve his goals : he was traveling lavishly, as it appeared thru our talks : business or first class on planes, private chartered planes whenever it was deemed necessary to save time or where scheduled flights do not go, best hotels, best cabin on our ship, living lavishly in a high-end country club in Ireland when not traveling … He made us believe he was very wealthy. Most passengers on the Ortelius, who were in their 60s and 70s, were really awed and impressed by this young lad ! Soon, during the voyage, it transpired that he belonged to the Baekeland family ; yes, the family of the inventor of the bakelite I introduced earlier …Of course, it was a huge lie !


During this voyage, due to weather conditions, we could not put our feet on Bouvet Island (we did only a circumnavigation), the remotest island of our beloved planet ! Everybody was really upset … so, when some days later, William told us that he might organize a private voyage again there and that he could talk to us later in the year about that, interest rose among us ! It was nearly the first time I put my foot (just a toe !) in his trap, although no commitment was done yet …



Dominique Laurent (Laurie Island)


Orkney Islands



   Conman William Baekeland alias Jesse Gordon



   An extreme traveler's dream : Bouvet Island (the remotest island on Earth)



Cleverly enough, during the expedition on the Ortelius, William told me about a voyage to Clipperton he was going to do in January 2017, a voyage organized for divers by a German travel agent, not by him. Clipperton is a very isolated, small and uninhabited atoll in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean. It belongs to France (it is also named ‘Ile de la Passion’). As one of my traveling goals is to go to every French territory, when I went back to Paris I hurriedly made a reservation for this trip.


Nothing much happened between William and me up to end the of 2016, except some emails received telling that he was working on this private voyage to Bouvet that could occur end of 2018. I learnt later (too late !), when the scam was discovered, that some fellow travelers had already, during 2016, some bad experiences having been fooled by William Baekeland (trips promised by him, cancelled and not reimbursed).



So, I met again William Baekeland, for the second time, during the voyage to Clipperton. I boarded the Nautilus Explorer on January 4th 2017 for a 2 weeks trip, along with some 20 other passengers. This voyage was organised by Waterworld Werner Thiele KG. The vast majority of the passengers were divers. Only 3 of us did not dive : me, because I have never learnt, William and another guy. The fact that William did not do any dive should have rung a bell in my head : when we were aboard the Ortelius, he claimed to have learnt how to dive (even having a Padi level), and while the Clipperton sealife is a Mecca for divers, he did not do a single dive ! On board, during our idle time, I saw him preparing a trip to war-torn Central Africa Republic, a country which I had not 'ticked' yet. It did not take me long to ask about his plans and to show interest in his trip ! Soon he offered me to join. We parted on January 18th 2017.



      Conman William Baekeland



  Clipperton Island (French flag)



Dominique Laurent





Soon afterwards, William emailed me the itinerary for the private Bouvet expedition (actually an alleged first leg of a circumnavigation of Antarctica). He urged me to make a 75% deposit, what I did, fearing availability would disappear soon …. It seemed to me quite unusual to make such a deposit so long in advance, but, as it was a private charter, I bought the explanation that it had to be done earlier than for a commercial voyage. He tried to hook me up for the other two legs of the circumnavigation. Fortunately, at least for these, I did not rise to the bait, not because of cautiousness, only because I had been in some of the places promised in these two legs !

I paid also for the Central Africa Republic trip. The amount seemed to me a bit high, but, as we were going to charter a small plane to travel inside the country, which is obviously expensive, I agreed. Looking things backwards, I am now pretty sure that I, along with the other two participants, paid for William’s share.


May 2017 arrived and I went to Central African Republic with William and 2 other guys. It was the third time I met William Baekeland and the only trip (out of 6) allegedly organised by him that was actually completed. It went quite smoothly, the trip was perfectly organized. William behaved like before : a rich & charming lad who does not count his money, a guy ‘born with a golden spoon in the mouth’.

An anecdote even increased my confidence in him. Let me tell about it ; it shows how good this swindler was at building his credibility and masquerading as a rich heir ! :

The last leg of the CAR trip was a visit (by charter plane) to the Dzanga Ndoki National Park for 3 days. Two days before, I brought the idea to stop on the way in Bouar, an interesting city and a former French base during colonial times. This was not on the itinerary and, as it added some distance by plane, there was an additional cost to pay for the aircraft (upon return to Bangui). We, including William, all agreed to share the extra fee. The eve of our departure, a terrorist attack in Manchester occurred. William looked upset, said he had friends among the victims and that he would rather stay in Bangui. So we went to Bouar and Dzanga Ndoki National Park without him. When we were back to Bangui, we had to settle the extra bill for the plane (something like 1,000 euros each). Generously, William paid his share even though he was not with us. I can assure that, after this, my level of confidence in him was over 100 % ! I had not understood then that the terrorist attack was a welcomed event for him to have an excuse not to go and build up this low-cost trick to make me confortable with what was going to happen just afterwards in June and July.



Dominique Laurent & Bokassa statue



In Bangui (CAR after civil war)



    Conman William Baekeland alias Jesse Gordon (middle left)





Upon my return to Paris, things abruptly accelerated … Within the next 2 months (June and July), he proposed a trip for December 2017 to South Sudan, for March 2018 to Somalia, for August 2018 to RDC and for November 2018 to Equatorial Guinea. My eyes closed, I made substantial deposits for these 4 trips. During this period, knowing that I was going for a trek in Cordiliera Vilcabamba in Peru, William Baekeland even sent to me a copy of an article about an explorer, a grandson of Leo Baekeland, who led an expedition there, published in the National Geographic magazine, in order to more impersonate his alleged Baekeland name. This shows how deeply his scam was premeditated!




We met again briefly for the fourth and last time in Layang Layang, an island of the disputed Spratleys archipelago. This trip was organised by Nomadmania.com for the top-ranking members of this travelers’ club. Strangely enough, he did not inform us that he had registered, just a few weeks before, a travel company with a partner (Atlas Travel and Expeditions Ltd). I will come back to this later.


Dominique Laurent



    Layang Layang (disputed Spratleys)



    Conman William Baekeland (2nd left) & Dominique Laurent (3rd left)








     Group photo of ‘extreme travelers,' all members of NomadMania (some of the William Baekeland’s still unaware victims - still smiling - !)




Then William Baekeland ‘disappeared’ entirely. Some of us, not me (I was just traveling without internet most of the time and just relying on William for the organization of the trip to South Sudan promised for December 2017), started smelling a rat. When William did not show up in Khartum for a planned trip to South Sudan, leaving a fellow traveler stranded, when 2 trips, one to Saudi Arabia, the other one to Mali, were cancelled just 2 weeks ahead without mention of a refund, it was getting more and more obvious that there was something wrong.


Harry Mitsidis, founder of Nomadmania.com, started investigating the matter in the last days of October 2017 ; his brilliant investigation, whose steps are well described in Nomadmania.com (page Newsletters, Newsletter dated 14/11) unveiled the truth :

William Baekeland is not a member of the Baekeland family ; he is Jesse Gordon, the obscure lad I introduced in the 4th paragraph of this blog. To perform his scam, he changed his name in 2014, usurpating legally the Baekeland family name (strangely enough, it is easy and straighforward to get another name in the UK : no hassles, no questions asked, quick -one day-, and costs nearly nothing),




Conman Jesse Gordon alias William Baekeland’s scam :


Jesse’s scam was aimed at international travellers from all over the world. He made at least 18 victims. He stole at least 650,000 euros from them. This is not counting money for trips that were held but for which significant markups might have been charged, or where one thing was promised and quite another delivered. His victims are from the USA, Russia, Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland and other countries. The mechanism of his scam was to meet his victims on trips to remote places, make them to believe he was a person who liked traveling and, as having a lot of money, could do expensive trips. He proposed to his victims to join him on future expeditions and collected advance payments for these.


Fuelled by an expanding network of world travellers met during expeditions and gaining more credibility doing interviews with travelers' clubs, he expanded his fake image supposedly arranging trips to remote and difficult places. His victims from the international travel community have paid substantial amounts of money for future trips allegedly arranged by him. A few trips were actually been carried out for gaining credibility. More and more trips, though, were not executed (for fallacious reasons), and this resulted in the discovery of his scam.


Before he changed his name, he started in 2013 and 2014 with another scam (based on the same mechanism) on a lesser scale, He created a company named "Remote Worldwide Travel Limited", hooked up customers, collected money for trips, did not fulfill these trips and of course did not reimburse these customers who had paid him for trips he promised, declared bankrucy and rather disappeared completely. The British police did nothing ! ... We suppose that he used this money for financing a lavish life at home and his own luxury trips, after probably completing some travels with his first customers to gain credibility, in a typical Ponzi pyramidal system (like a Madoff copycat).


I discovered also that, mid 2017, he created (with a partner, named Joshua Radcliffe, who may or may not be an accomplice ; at this point we do not know) another travel company ‘Atlas Travel and Expeditions Ltd’. We are concerned that maybe more innocent people will give money that will disappear also. Strangely enough, this travel agency has (alledged) scheduled trips only beginning mid 2019 ; it has also, when read carefully, strange ‘terms and conditions’ as far as reimbursements are concerned. Although there is no absolute evidence of that, it might be designed to continue the scam on a larger scale.


Of course, the ‘movie’ is not over : many of us have already made reports to the police in various countries and have pressed charges against William Baekeland / Jesse Gordon (in UK, the USA, France, Russia, Germany, Ireland …) and we all hope he will be severely punished for what he did.

The newsletter published on 14/11 by Nomadmania.com (page Newsletter when you go on this internet site) by the person who unveiled the scam (to whom we are all grateful) explains everything in detail.




Conman Jesse Gordon / William Baekeland sample of lies :


And now, for the fun of it , let us enjoy a sample of other William Baekeland’s imaginative lies (some were obviously created so that people he owed money to would not push him too much out of sympathy) :


He spent one month in North Korea at Kim Il Sung University : he probably has never been to North Korea at all !


He has a ‘family assistant’ named David Russell, who sent us emails : just 2 emails addresses for 1 Jesse Gordon !


His mother, Lady Violette Baekeland, was also a great traveller, as was his grandmother, who in the 1930s went around the globe as one of the first woman explorers : both have probably not traveled much outside of England !


His two sisters were Muguette and Ariadne, both died in August and October 2016 (one fell in a coma for months, the other committed suicide) ; Muguette will be happy to learn that she was buried at Sleepy Hollow cemetery near her great-grandfather and that the funeral was a simple ceremony with the song ‘Abide by Me’ as a background : well, happily for them, both are well alive (and their names aren’t Muguette and Ariadne of course) and we found their photos on Facebook ! There was even a photo of the whole Gordon family including William/Jesse (do not look for this photo, it has been deleted just after the unveiling of the scam !).


His mother 'Lady Violette' had a teddy bear flown first class to the funeral of one of the sisters in New York : this must be the most bizarre lie he made and people to whom this was told believed it ! His mother, Mandy Gordon, lives in a Birmingham working class neighborhood, and, obviously, is not a ‘Lady’ !

In February 2017, his father allegedly died too, while Jesse/William was in Antarctica for a Ross Sea expedition and unable to fly back for the funeral. All travelers aboard (I wasn’t) believed that and supported him : well, his father is very much alive !


William plays the harpsicord, knows how to dive, is a licensed plane pilot … What else this superman knows ?


He got Crohn disease in 2011, 2012 and strangely enough again in September /October 2017 when he ‘disappeared’ : none of that, of course, is true, this lie, following many others, was just for buying time and having an excuse for cancelling trips ; when asked to tell where he was hospitalized, he did not answer!



The epilogue is not written yet …



See also :


• Newsletter published on November 14th 2017 : http://mailchi.mp/69fce52f17fc/fraudissue-1333801

• Interviews of 4 victims by Ric Gazarian : https://globalgaz.com/special-report-turmoil-travel-community-william-baekeland-controversy/






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